For all my talk of teaching my kids the importance of their faith, and for all the stress I place upon them to understand the significance of each of the (oh, my Lord, how many!) holidays, I actually don’t like taking my kids to shul.
They’re noisy. They’re messy. They have no idea that pews aren’t trampolines, and there is something about the sanctuary that inflicts upon them a selective deafness to my (oh, my Lord, how many!) pleas to sit down and play quietly with the WikiStix and Model Magic and snacks and other diversions. Please. Seriously. Sit. Down.
There is no kavanah when you take a child to pray with you. There is no prayer. There is just your incompetence as a parent on public display in the form of a 2-year-old trying to remove her clothing in the aisles.
I spend most of any service I attend in the synagogue’s playroom. Away from the prayer, and away from the whole point of my having gotten out of the house in the first place.
But on a recent Saturday, I was determined not take them to the playroom. On a recent Saturday, while hubby coached Zev’s soccer game, I took our youngest ones to hear the name of my father being read for his yarhzeit.
Reading of names of people on the anniversary of their death is not meaningful to some, but to me, it is unbelievably sacred. In reciting the names of people who died, we protect them against the thing we fear most—to be forgotten.
Twenty years have passed since my father’s death. I have not forgotten. So despite my aversion to taking kids to synagogue, I gathered my strength and a whole lotta snacks and took my rambunctious lot to hear the name of their grandfather. To remember him, even though they’ll never meet him.
Things went horribly.
My kids rushed the bimah, played incessantly with the clanging retractable seats and protested, loudly, about the choice of snacks I had provided. By the time my dad’s name was read, I had banished them to the playroom with another adult.
My kids never heard his name. I felt terrible. Why can’t I redirect my kids with calm? Why do the best of my intentions always seem to fail?
They returned later to the service and I vowed to be more present. The 4-year-old seemed to sense the change. He opened a Siddur and in an act of parroting the adults around him, stood and pretended to pray.
He looks so much like my father, it pains me sometimes. Today the resemblance couldn’t have been more of a gift. I leaned to kiss him and saw the siddur was randomly opened to the Mourner’s Kaddish.
I took it as a sign (maybe from my father?) that though my son hadn’t heard my dad’s name, he understood the importance of the day. He hadn’t heard, but he had listened.
Mayrav Saar is a writer based in Los Angeles.